Even relatively late in life, it’s not too late to make a singer-songwriter record, no matter what the walk of life. Take Jim Stanard, for example. He sounds as if he’s a contemporary of this writer and the two Richards you seen so prominently on this site. Stanard grew up during the golden age of folk music and spent many an evening listening at the legendary Main Point Coffeehouse in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. There he saw Tom Rush, Doc Watson, Bruce Springsteen, and others. He saw Bob Dylan in Philadelphia in
Even though he learned guitar at age 12 and had inspirations for a musical career, he chose a different one. He stopped playing and developed a successful career in the world of finance and insurance. Although music was not his career during those years, his early exposure to it remained a guiding force. “I’ve always carried around a Dylan line ‘he not busy being born is busy dying’,” he says. “To accomplish something, one needs to take action. I like to think of weaponizing my mistakes and failures by learning from each.”
As it happens to many of us, there’s a point in a traditional kind of career where one longs to step away to earnestly pursue an interest, and/or get involved in more creative endeavors. Stanard, who never really abandoned his early attraction to folk music, returned to it the early 2000s with the support of his wife of 42 years. A series of introductions to music industry insiders led to guitar lessons and voice lessons with Kip Winger, frontman for the platinum-selling rock band, Winger. Kip (who plays on the album) encouraged Jim to begin writing songs and Jim dove in, studying with Kip and other writers, and crystalizing his observations into the songs that went on to comprise this debut album, Bucket List.
Stanard, clearly not an industry veteran or insider, has a tough road ahead, putting even more pressure on these songs to speak for themselves. He has some gems here. Drawing on influences that range rom Warren Zeon to David Bromberg to Robert Earl Keen, Stanard has both a gift for poetry and narrative. He covers a wide range of subjects from politics to the thermodynamics of love. He gets into the head of a soldier in “Dogs of War,” and poses some interesting questions in “Lobster.” These lyrics attest to his insights, “Ain’t got nothing ‘gainst some guy in Vietnam/stamping bumpers and grills almost or free/Though our daddies fought/maybe his was killed by mine/Is there Karma at work directed at me?”
His take on current political climate is expressed rather directly in “Can’t Happen Here.” Here is a sample – “Ask the ghosts of Sarajevo/Mosul and Kandahar/they thought it couldn’t happen there/they’ll tell the cause of war/their leaders were little men/who bickered and debated/for their own gain and glory/fed sectarian hatred.” His take on philosophy is facetiously captured in “Turtles.” He talks about relationships growing apart in “Bucket List’ and “Meant To Say.” Throughout, it’s hard to argue with Stanard’s observations. We’ve all lived though and continue to experience many of them.
Although the album is uneven and Stanard doesn’t have a distinctive voice, the effort, combined with his insights on some of outstanding songs highlighted make for a promising start.
- Jim Hynes